Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creativity Journal Entry 3: The race

Race ya to the next bite

During my trip to Baltimore, I got the chance to spend a few days with my sister, mother of three boys. Her middle child is 5, and he expends as much energy being cute as he does creating mischief.

Being around children of this age is not something I normally do. Ironic as it is considering I work at a children's hospital, I don't really spend a lot of time with kids. And since I don't have kids, I certainly don't spend any concentrated amount of time with children if and when I come into contact with them.

But I did happen to pick something up at work, which is that boys around age 5 love to be TIMED. So whether it's a race up the stairs ("I'm gonna beat you!") or a request to be timed doing a certain activity, they want to know who did it the fastest.

I was able to put this principle into play when I noticed that my nephew spends most of his mealtime playing, and very little of it actually eating. He will bug his brother, jump up from his chair or even bust out into spontaneous dancing and singing...essentially anything to avoid eating his food.

So when dinner had already been dragging on without any food leaving his plate, I tried an experiment: I told him that he only had 10 seconds to take his next bite, and I started counting down from 10. He perked up. To add drama, I stared at my wrist as I counted. Note that I did not have on a watch, but it seemed like I did and it made the countdown that much more intense. He started to get nervous. As I approached counting down to the number 1, he quickly took a bite. I acted very relieved. And 2 minutes later, I did it again.

This turned out to be a regular routine at mealtime. While his parents would plead with him to "just sit down and eat," the only thing that truly motivated him was the countdown. Now I'm not claiming to be a parenting expert. Perhaps the novelty would have worn off eventually and he'd go back to avoiding his food. But I think that experiences like these are sort of the essence of creativity. You try something that you are not sure will work, or even if it does, how long it will work. But it doesn't seem to hurt to try, and short-term success is still considered a success. And so is a clean plate.

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